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Minarchism (also known as minimal statism) is a political philosophy. It is variously defined by sources. In the strictest sense, it holds that states ought to exist (as opposed to anarchy), that their only legitimate function is the protection of individuals from aggression, theft, breach of contract, and fraud, and that the only legitimate governmental institutions are the military, police, and courts. In the broadest sense, it also includes fire departments, prisons, the executive, and legislatures as legitimate government functions. Such states are generally called night-watchman states.
Minarchists argue that the state has no authority to use its monopoly of force to interfere with free transactions between people, and see the state's sole responsibility as ensuring that contracts between private individuals and property are protected, through a system of law courts and enforcement. Minarchists generally believe a laissez-faire approach to the economy is most likely to lead to economic prosperity.
Some minarchists justify the state on the grounds that it is the logical consequence of adhering to the non-aggression principle. Some argue that a state is inevitable. Some minarchists argue that anarchism is immoral because it implies that the non-aggression principle is optional, because the enforcement of laws under anarchism is open to competition. Another common justification is that private defense and court firms would tend to show bias, unevenly representing the interests of paying clients. Robert Nozick in Anarchy, State, and Utopia argued that a night watchman state provides a framework that allows for any political system that respects fundamental individual rights.
The issue of taxation is polarizing among minarchists. Some minarchists support taxation on principle or see it as a necessary evil to address the free rider problem, while others believe it is morally wrong. Ayn Rand is notable for her opposition to taxation, while also holding that the elimination of taxation in a society should occur gradually. Another polarizing issue among minarchists is whether citizens should have to pay the government to enforce their contracts.
Samuel Edward Konkin III, an agorist, coined the term minarchism in 1971 to describe libertarians who defend some form of government. Konkin invented the term minarchism as an alternative to the cumbersome phrase limited-government libertarianism. It is ostensibly formed as min(imal) + -archy (government) + -ism (system)—"system of minimal government".
Objectivism views government as "the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control—i.e., under objectively defined laws;" thus, government is both legitimate and critically important in order to protect individual rights. Rand opposed so-called "rational anarchism," because she saw putting police and courts on the market as an inherent miscarriage of justice. Objectivism holds that the proper functions of a government are "the police, to protect men from criminals—the armed services, to protect men from foreign invaders—the law courts, to settle disputes among men according to objectively defined laws," the executive, and legislatures. Furthermore, in protecting individual rights, the government is acting as an agent of its citizens and "has no rights except the rights delegated to it by the citizens" and it must act in an impartial manner according to specific, objectively defined laws.
Anarcho-capitalists generally argue that government violates the non-aggression principle by its nature because governments use force against those who have not stolen private property, vandalized private property, assaulted anyone, or committed fraud.
Murray Rothbard argued that all government services, including defense, are inefficient because they lack a market-based pricing mechanism regulated by the voluntary decisions of consumers purchasing services that fulfill their highest-priority needs and by investors seeking the most profitable enterprises to invest in. Therefore, the state's monopoly on the use of force is a violation of natural rights. He wrote, "The defense function is the one reserved most jealously by the State. It is vital to the State's existence, for on its monopoly of force depends its ability to extract taxes from the citizens. If citizens were permitted privately owned courts and armies, then they would possess the means to defend themselves against invasive acts by the government as well as by private individuals." In his book Power and Market, he argued that geographically large minarchist states are indifferent from a unified minarchist world monopoly government. Rothbard wrote that governments were not inevitable, noting that it often took hundreds of years for aristocrats to set up a state out of anarchy. He also argued that if a minimal state allows individuals to freely secede from the current jurisdiction to join a competing jurisdiction, then it does not by definition constitute a state.
Anarchists generally argue that private defense and court firms would have to have a good reputation in order to stay in business. Furthermore, Linda & Morris Tannehill argue that no coercive monopoly of force can arise on a free market and that a government's citizenry cannot desert them in favor of a competent protection and defense agency.
Proponents of an economically interventionist state argue it is best to evaluate the merits of government intervention on a case-by-case basis in order to address recessions (see economic interventionism) or existential threats.
Social conservatives argue that the state should maintain a moral outlook and legislate against behavior commonly regarded as culturally destructive or immoral; that, indeed, the state cannot survive if its citizens do not have a certain kind of character, integrity and civic virtue, and so ignoring the state's role in forming people's ethical dispositions can be disastrous.
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- Gregory, Anthory.The Minarchist's Dilemma. Strike The Root. 10 May 2004.
- Peikoff, Leonard (March 7, 2011). "What Role Should Certain Specific Governments Play in Objectivist Government?". peikoff.com. Retrieved 24 December 2011.
- Peikoff, Leonard (October 3, 2011). "Interview with Yaron Brook on Economic Issues in Today’S World (Part 1)". peikoff.com. Retrieved 24 December 2011.
- Emmett, Ross B. (2011-08-12). Frank H. Knight in Iowa City, 1919–1928. Emerald Group Publishing. ISBN 978-1-78052-008-7.
- Holcombe, Randall G. http://www.independent.org/pdf/tir/tir_08_3_holcombe.pdf. Government: Unnecessary but Inevitable.
- Nozick, Robert (1974). Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-09720-3.
- Rand, Ayn; Robert Mayhew (2005-11-01). Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q & A. Penguin. ISBN 978-0-451-21665-6.
- Peikoff 1991, p. 364
- Rand 1964, pp. 125–128
- Rand 1964, p. 131
- Rand 1964, p. 129
- Rand 1964, p. 128; Peikoff 1991, pp. 364–365
- Long, Roderick, Market Anarchism as Constitutionalism, Molinari Institute.
- Plauché, Geoffrey Allan (2006). On the Social Contract and the Persistence of Anarchy, American Political Science Association, (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University).
- Rothbard, Murray N (2004-03-18). "The Myth of Efficient Government Service". Mises Daily (Auburn, AL). Retrieved 2012-01-11.
- Murray Rothbard. Power and Market: Defense services on the Free Market. p. 1051. "It is all the more curious, incidentally, that while laissez-faireists should by the logic of their position, be ardent believers in a single, unified world government, so that no one will live in a state of “anarchy” in relation to anyone else, they almost never are."
- Murray Rothbard. Power and Market: Defense services on the Free Market. p. 1054. "In the purely free-market society, a would-be criminal police or judiciary would find it very difficult to take power, since there would be no organized State apparatus to seize and use as the instrumentality of command. To create such an instrumentality de novo is very difficult, and, indeed, almost impossible; historically, it took State rulers centuries to establish a functioning State apparatus. Furthermore, the purely free-market, stateless society would contain within itself a system of built-in “checks and balances” that would make it almost impossible for such organized crime to succeed."
- Murray Rothbard. Power and Market: Defense services on the Free Market. p. 1051. "But, of course, if each person may secede from government, we have virtually arrived at the purely free society, where defense is supplied along with all other services by the free market and where the invasive State has ceased to exist."
- Linda & Morris Tannehill. The Market for Liberty, p. 81.